Earning an A in Failure

After reading The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by the legendary dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, I feel like I received a masterclass in the merits of failure. I’m neither a dancer nor a dance fan, but I am interested in habits and learned about her daily workout ritual while reading Atomic Habits by James Clear (one of my top book recommendations from 2019), and I tracked down a copy of her book.

Dancers and dance lovers will appreciate this book, but it’s a book for all creative people who want to develop and deepen their creative muscle.

Setting my intention for the year: Fail a lot.

The last chapter of Tharp’s book is titled “An A in Failure.” This is timely for me because I decided that failure is one of my intention words for 2020*. I think Failure is a bold intention to set for the year, and it’s a bit scary. I don’t like to fail—no one does. But staying in a safe, failure-free zone isn’t conducive to a creative life. It doesn’t help us to learn and grow. All learning requires failure. I have spent too much of my life staying in my competence zone and eschewing anything that I wasn’t good at doing. Ironically, this includes dancing.

Fail early and often

So, this year, I’m embracing new things and preparing to fail early and often:

  • Language instruction: Quiero hablar español. Puedo esribir en español pero no puedo hablar espanol muy bien. ¿Lo que sigue? “¡Sí, hablo español!”
  • Dancing: I’m not sure where I want to go with this yet, but I want to say, “Yes, I can dance.”
  • Expand my quilt repertoire: I do some things very well. I want to go further. I want to find my artistic voice. What’s next? Being able to say, “I am an artist.”
  • Writing: I am trying to write every day. So far, so good. My 2020 writing goal includes publishing something once a week.
  • Be athletic: Much to my surprise, I have learned to enjoy working out. My next stop is: “I am athletic.”

Share your intention

How about you? Where can you venture out of your comfort zone this year? One of the ways that we hold ourselves accountable is by sharing our goals with others. Share your intention with me, and I’ll follow up with you later in the year to see how things are going.

Need some inspiration to embrace failure?

Here are some of my favorite resources on embracing failure.


* Learn more about setting an intention for the year. The convention is to pick one word. I selected two. Maybe I’m an overachiever. Maybe I’m a contrarian. Maybe there’s a third option.

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